This is going to be a weird entry.
Instead of tackling specifics of the design of the Pokemon shown before the launch date through official media I want to discuss a bit about how the Community digested and discussed the information slowly dropped by the Pokemon Company. So this is going to be kind of terrible because fans take extreme positions to justify their stances and I’m honestly apalled of how these things get discussed in a game as kid friendly as Pokemon is. But this is also part of my Pokemon experience and I want to share it with you, as it’s still fresh in my memory and it’ll probably drift away from my imagination soon enough.
Many theories sprout during these past few months regarding what the Ultra Beasts were, as the marketing for Sun/Moon went their way to avoid calling them pokemon. This quickly became the forceful topic from a subset of fans that looked for the enticement of using Pokemon against “boss” enemies, effectively breaking the mold of your classic “4-moves only, one ability, levels balanced to match other pokes” critter. And this focus was not entirely crazy if only because the Totem Pokemon were a new idea that was clearly intended to function as a boss battle of sorts. From that building desire people started to say that Ultra Beasts were “too alien” to be pokemon and that they did not fit the match of the friendly critter you keep in your pocket and goes out to play with you while you give it candy. Their logic: they are not meant to be caught, they are hostile, they are enemies and NOT Pokemon.
I was never into this “they can’t be caught” mentality, I’d be comfortable with having a boss battle where you face an enemy with boosted movepools and greater stats, but then gets reduced for plot reasons and you catch it later on. That makes sense in my mind even if it’s an small betrayal to the established formula. I don’t discriminate Pokemon because of how they look and they can be as strange and bizarre as they can be, to me that’s part of the point. Pokemon were never meant to be “friendly animals” they don’t deserve that label any more than your King Kong or your Godzilla do, they are monsters from all kinds of origins and are basically inhuman, they represent a power that is beyond humanity and many levels and that has to be “different”. But some people think that because they work with Pokemon they get to own them, that they immediately become an attachment of human kind. In this mental structure, Pokemon and Human is “Us” while Ultra Beast would qualify as “Not us”.
One of the main focus of the Pokemon series is that of the Force of Nature. The making of Mewtwo was meddling with natural forces, Groudon/Kyogre awakening was a misguided effort to control their powers, etc. While it’s not contained in the plot of every game, there is a true underlining theme of Nature and Wildness. If you try to exclude an entity from the Pokedex, you’re effectively stripping them from their own nature, you make them “alien so they have to be destroyed”. We’re not talking about flowers and tea here, Groudon in a rampage is a world ender for Pokemon and Humans alike! How could an Ultra Beast be any more terrible than this? Why should it be unnatural to the point of dividing us against everything? I’m ok with entablishing combat with inhuman powers, but to refuse them our friendship is to spread a broken ideology (in a pokemon game nonetheless!). Which is… A weird enough discussion as it is, but as you guessed, fans had to make it weirder with so much wild especulation building up 😀
One of the rumors established a link between Ultra Beasts and Humans, assuming, more or less, than a few of the NPC characters in the games were the Ultra Beasts. The apologists of Ultra-Beast-Can’t-Be-Caught thesis said that it would be immoral to capture UBs if they happened to be human. Of course, if they are Ultra Beasts they weren’t really human, but then these people said that if UB could pretend well enough to be human and enact on human activities, then catching such UBs would be too close to catching a human and unacceptable. Holy Moley! They went hard with these moral complexities to justify their attachment to dubious game design choices. The argument, of course, is of some special kind of cruel specism that ignores that fact that Pokemon are already human enough to deserve love and attention. This isn’t Godzilla rampaging to Tokyo, this is a muscle-bound lizard-humanoid-thing that helps you move into your new house. In-game you are friends with your every Pokemon and you work together with them. Being inside a pokeball is not (meant to be) akin to humilliation and slavery. To say a human-acting UB would be diminished by sharing the fate of Pokemon is to admit that Pokes are undeserving animals already, inferior to the oh-so-superior human race. And the games prove time and time again that humans are not their Superiors.
So Ultra Beasts were either too civilized or too savage/alien/otherly to belong in the Pokemon ranks. They were seen as “unnatural” in a game with ghosts, human-made animals, extraterrestial entities and dragons inhabiting alternate dimensions. You then notice that unnatural is such a fake lame word with no meaning, because everything we know is, of course, natural. What is confused is that many people were convinced that these vacuities held truth by some miracle of empty language that pushes towards believing there is sense in any combination of words. I’m Ultra Baffled that these discussions took place to begin with.